The recent killing of Samiullah Baloch, a student of the University of Balochistan, by the drug smugglers in Noshki, Balochistan, puts the youth of the province in a terrible agony. The slain Baloch dared to launch a campaign against drug peddlers and identified their heinous activities. That resulted in his mysterious death. Prior to the murder of Baloch, Dr Abdul Qudoos Sheikh, the gallant FBR Deputy Collector, Anti- Smuggling, Model Customs Collectorate of Preventive Officer, was also killed in Quetta when he conducted an operation against drugs and smuggling mafias. Even an FBR officer is not spared from the brutalities of smugglers. In the last ten years smugglers have killed more than 10 officers in Balochistan.
Drug smugglers are dealt with immunity; their growing unchecked influence in Balochistan keeps many questions unanswered: can drug smugglers not be perceived as a state within a state? Whose support do they have in challenging the writ of the government? Senator Usman Kakar articulates that drug smuggling and human trafficking are openly done across the country, and no one can apprehend them as some mafias are members of the Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies. Kakar further states that smugglers and drug mafias are doing their business fearlessly; no institution including the ministry of interior could take action against them.
The slain Baloch dared to launch a campaign against drug peddlers and identified their heinous activities. That resulted in his mysterious death
The United Nations World Drug Report 2012 revealed: “Pakistan provides a vital transit route for smuggling of drugs worth $30 billion from the neighbouring Afghanistan.” Nobody seems to know who is involved in the $30-billion drugs smuggling. On the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, there are numerous caravan routes being used by drug smugglers. Provincial government is in deep slumber, incapable of curbing smuggling of drugs. Smuggling affects domestic industries, eroding revenue, nourishing an informal economy and paving the way for money laundering and corruption.
Balochistan’s proximity to Afghanistan and its 80 percent global opium production are having harmful effects on the province. The Global Afghan Opium Trade, 2011 says that out of the nine drug trafficking routes into Pakistan via Afghanistan six routes pass through Balochistan. No measures have been taken by the government to halt drug smuggling on those routes.
Realistically speaking, if six routes are being used by drug smugglers, why can’t the government of Pakistan utilise same routes for formal economy and regional connectivity with Afghanistan? Smuggling routes via Balochistan have resulted in an increasing heroin addiction in the province. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report on drug use in Pakistan 2013said: The highest prevalence of opiate users was found in Balochistan, where 1.6 percent of the population uses either heroin, opium, or both.”
The Global Afghan Opium Trade, 2011 says that out of the nine drug trafficking routes into Pakistan via Afghanistan six routes pass through Balochistan
Sana Baloch, MPA of Balochistan, expressed his resentment over drug mafias and said that drug business had turned into a general store business in Balochistan, and drugs like daily commodities were available in every store. Sana further said that the youth of Balochistan had launched a long march from Khuzdar to Quetta against drug mafias. “It was exceedingly alarming news; fifteen thousand youth of Balochistan were annually becoming victims of drug addiction,” Sana said.
While interviewing one of the members of a family affected by heroin addiction in Quetta, I asked how painful it was if a family had two heroin addicted members. He replied with pain that they prayed to God for their death as their addiction to heroin had caused an irremovable scar on their reputation in society. His painful words still echoes in my mind when he said that they were not much concerned about the already heroin addicted members of their family; they were extra cautious about other family members who might also become heroin addicted due to easy availability of drugs in the vicinity.
Drug addiction is increasingly becoming an epidemic disease engulfing the entire province. One needs to realise the gravity of the pain of members of a drug addict’s family in Balochistan; on account of their drug addiction they pray to God for the death of their loved ones. Drug mafias have converted beloved sons into hollow bodies and a curse on the earth. Drug peddlers move freely in Quetta, destroying an entire young generation.
Balochistan is half of the country and proportionately, that means half of the body. Keeping the half part of the body marginalised, ignorant, confronting with six thousand drugs related fatalities annually, with growing drug mafias would be more detrimental to the whole of Pakistan than to just Balochistan. Arguably, Balochistan being more important than other provinces in some respects should have a fewer grievances and should have been more developed than other provinces. Balochistan at the current juncture is a hotspot of a global rivalry. Ruling out regional and global players’ obsession with Balochistan is simply out of the question; they might, in the foreseeable future, exploit Balochistan’s vulnerabilities. Under such circumstances, giving inadequate attention to Balochistan’s issues including the menace of drug mafias is beyond one’s comprehension.
The writer works at the Institute of Strategic Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad